How to Pressure Wash a Car – Complete Guide

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Cleaning is the best way to maintain your car and it’s also essential for any modification or detailing work. A pressure washer is the best tool for the job as it’s more efficient than a garden hose. I will show how to do this step by step.

Use a 40 degree nozzle for the car exterior and a 25 degree nozzle for the wheels. Pressure wash from the top and work your way down. Scrub with car wash soap, rinse and wipe all surfaces dry.

Tools and Materials Required

  • Pressure washer
  • Car wash soap (Chemical Guys is a good one)
  • Foam cannon (optional)
  • Bucket of water
  • Towels for wiping
  • Sponge or mitt for scrubbing

If you’re still on the lookout for a car pressure washer, I recommend the Sun Joe SPX3000.

Step 1: Preparation

Set the pressure washer to 1200-1900 PSI. You will also need two nozzles, white (40 degrees) for the car surface, and green (25 degrees) for the wheels.

Prepare the cleaning detergent as per the package instructions. Position the car on a concrete surface.

Do not pressure wash on a rocky surface like gravel because the pressure washer might send debris flying all over your car.

If you prefer to watch the car wash process, check out this video.

Step 2: Wash the Car

Put the 40 degree nozzle on the pressure washer. Turn the machine on and point the nozzle at the roof. Set the output to water.

Pressure wash from the roof to remove the debris. Spray downwards at a 45 degree angle.

The nozzle should be at least 6 inches from the paint. For the trim, keep the nozzle at a foot away.

Spray thoroughly to remove the dirt. Switch to a 25 degree nozzle to clean the wheels.

Remove as much of the dirt as you can before moving to step 3. If you need to move away from the pressure washer, turn off the machine. If you’re too far that’s all right as the unloader valve will kick in when you let go of the trigger.

Step 3: Soap

Majority of pressure washers have a bottle which you fill with soap and water. Check the instructions for the proper ratio. Fill the tank with the soapy water mix and switch the output to soap.

You can also use a sponge or rag to apply the soap. Leave the mix on the car for 10 minutes.

If you have a foam cannon, use soap which specifically works with it. For more about pressure washers and foam cannons, this guide can help.

Once the soapy mix is ready, plug the foam cannon on the pressure washer. Spray the car roof and move down like you did earlier.

The key is to apply a good amount of foam. It’s a very effective in getting rid of dirt and grime. Foam also protects the vehicle surface as you clean it.

If you’re looking for a good foam cannon I recommend TriNova as it is easy to use and very durable.

Step 4: Scrub

After applying the foam, start scrubbing. Begin from the top and make your way down. Make sure you have ample water available.

The more soap you put, the easier caked dirt comes off. This is why I suggested using generous amounts.

It’s easier if you work in small areas first. Scrub on a 3’x3′ section and clean it thoroughly. This approach allows you to wipe the grime off.

Step 5: Rinse and Dry

Change the setting from soap to water or put the 40 degree nozzle back on. Do not use other nozzles because it might scratch the paint or not rinse thoroughly.

Rinse the car from the top all the way to the bottom. Repeat two times or more to completely remove the suds.

Make sure there is no foam residue left on the surface. Check the the windows and doors as dirt and soap might have built up there.

Keep an eye on the water dripping from the car. If you only see clear water, all the foamy soap and dirt are gone.

Wipe the car with a microfiber towel. Even if the sun is out, it’s better to hand wipe the vehicle to ensure it is thoroughly dried.

Best Tips for Pressure Washing a Car

Prepare all the materials you’ll use before starting. Clear the area so the water doesn’t spray all over everything.

Aim the nozzle at the ground before you turn the pressure washer on. There’s going to be a burst of water coming out and while safe for your car, it could spray water all over.

Make certain the car doors and windows are closed. After washing, check the interior for any wet spots

Follow the water to soap ratio as indicated on the package. Changing the mixture could affect its ability remove dirt.

Remember the rule: 6 inches away from the paint, 12 inches from the trim. This is the minimum distance.

Tire dirt can be hard to remove and could require a lot of washing.

Advantages of Pressure Washing Cars

If you’ve been hand washing or using a garden hose, is it worth switching to a pressure washer?

Yes it is. A pressure washer provides benefits that hand washing or a garden hose cannot match.

More Thorough Cleaning

A pressure washer can reach areas in the car that a garden hose can’t. You might be able to get to the nooks and crannies with your hands, but that will take a lot of time.

A pressure washer is more powerful than a garden hose and removes more dirt. You can also maneuver it to clear up those tight areas in the vehicle.

Get Done Faster

Nobody wants to spend the whole day hand washing a car. A garden hose is better but not by much. It lacks pressure and still takes a long time.

A pressure washer removes debris faster than a garden hose. The means you get to soap, scrub and rinse faster too. If you want car fast but without compromise, a pressure washer is the answer.

Pressure Washers Save Money

A pressure washer uses less water than a garden hose, but because of pressure, removes dirt better.

With a pressure washer you use less water and save money. Not only that but you don’t compromise the car. In fact you’ll get better results.

Since you can use pressure washers to clean other areas of your home, it can mean significant monthly savings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to pressure wash a car?

Yes, but you have to use the right nozzle and PSI. Set the PSI between 1200-1900. Use the green nozzle (25 degrees) for the wheels. For the rest of the car surface, use the white nozzle (40 degrees).

Don’t use the red and yellow nozzles as they produce too much water pressure. If you aren’t sure what PSI to use, set it to 1200 and increase it if necessary.

Should I an electric or gas pressure washer for my car?

Both are safe to use on cars. As long as you use the right nozzles and PSI, the pressure washer won’t damage the paint.

Should I use a foam cannon?

A foam cannon is not necessary but it helps a lot. Foam protects the surface when you scrub and removes a lot of stubborn dirt.

if your car is caked with dirt, a foam cannon can remove the debris and more efficiently.

How long should I leave the soap on the car?

At least 10 minutes for it to take effect. The instructions might be different for the product. Follow whatever directions are given.

What pressure washer features are need for car wash?

First is the ability to set the PSI to 1200-1900. It’s okay if you have a high powered pressure washer as long as you can reduce the PSI to these levels.

Almost all pressure washers come with the green and white nozzles which you’ll need, so that’s not a problem. If yours didn’t, you can get them online.

A long hose is ideal so you can move around the car without dragging the machine. A 16 ft (5 m) hose is just right for most cases.

I also recommend a foam bottle that you can attach to the pressure washer. Wheels are essential if you have to move the pressure washer around.